Head, Heart and Balls
The penis throughout life
No matter what age a boy or a man may be, his penis is an essential part of his masculinity: perhaps, in some ways, the essential part of his masculinity.
The interesting thing is how consistently important the penis is to a male's sense of identity, even though its appearance, function, and behavior change so dramatically as a male goes through life.
It's been said that one of the reasons why the penis assumes such importance for males is that it is "outwardly" directed, obvious from the moment of birth to the exploring fingers of a newborn.
And, if the body reflects the psychology of male sexuality, then yes, it's possible to see how the outwardly directed pointing phallus would serve to give men and boys a sense of their sexuality as directed outwards into the world.
Little boys get erections a fact which demonstrates that sexual arousal need not necessarily be dependent on mental thoughts and feelings, since the physical arousal of a small boy must be due to the pleasurable stimulation of the penis with his hands or other sensual stimulation such as rubbing on clothing.
At adolescence the nature and behavior of the penis change entirely: for the adolescent boy, the uncontrollable, inexplicable nature of erections can be a major challenge. While girls may get aroused, there is no evidence of this except for the secret dampness between their legs.
For boys, particularly those who choose to wear loose underwear, the signs of arousal can be all too obvious - and, whether they are understood or not, and erection may be all too obvious, and can be a major embarrassment.
Indeed, much of the adolescent's time is spent trying to control his errant penis from springing into hard erection, or hide it when it is erect - especially if it won't go down!
Unpredictable, uncontrollable, rambunctious and rowdy, the adolescent penis mirrors in many ways its owner's behavior. It needs focus and control, it needs directing and managing so that its energy serves its owner.
And the masturbation! Some adolescent boys get fixated on masturbation, and even those who don't may masturbate several times a day.
The adolescent penis seems to have a will of its own -- no matter how often it ejaculates, ten minutes later it's ready to come again.
And if its owner gives way to the seemingly irresistible urge to obtain sexual relief, the orgasm tends to be explosive, with large amounts of semen flying large distances.
It's true therefore, that the adolescent penis is the penis at the ultimate height of its physical power. Never again will the boy have such responsivity to the hormones in his system. Never again will he find his orgasms so insistently demanding, his ejaculation so explosive, and his capacity to become erect and come again so great.
The adolescent penis needs little or no stimulation from the outside world -- it gets hard on its own for no obvious reason ... although, of course, there is always a reason: a glimpse of a girl's skin, a sexual word, a sexual thought intruding at the wrong moment, the mere vibration of an engine stimulating his prostate region as a boy rides in a car or on a bus, a female body in sports gear or swimming costume ... and of course thousands of even more subtle stimulants as well, all making both heterosexual and gay adolescents alike the prisoner of their penises willful tendency to spring to attention every other moment.
Indeed, for the adolescent boy, even thoughts and feelings about his own sex can be highly arousing no matter that he's not gay, his penis may embarrass him in the showers with other boys. Hardness is the natural state of the rampant adolescent penis.
But of course there are exceptions: some boys don't conform to this randy adolescent image, particularly the ones who have issues with guilt, shame, or anxiety about the progress of their puberty or the shape and size of their penis.
In young adults between the ages of 20 and 35, the penis is already showing signs of an easier, more relaxed life. Wet dreams occur much less often, and the penis itself may become hard much less often, much less spontaneously. Perhaps it's less hard when it's erect, and perhaps the demand for masturbation or other forms of sexual release is beginning to reduce in intensity.
Gradually, between the ages of 40 and 50, the midlife penis shows obvious changes: it probably requires more physical stimulation before it gets hard, no longer becoming erect just because its owner has enjoyed some sexual fantasy. And, once hard, it becomes softer more easily once an erection is lost, it may be harder to regain it.
The angle of erection may reduce and, particularly for men with small penises, the hard, erect, " pointing rigidly upward" signal of arousal may droop to a more horizontal or even a " pointing down at the floor" angle. Usually these are just simply the changes that come with age, as is a reduction in the force of ejaculation, and the amount of semen ejaculated.
In a man in his 50s, 60s, and 70s, the penis requires more attention than ever. It will certainly need physical stimulation before it gets hard, and the things that used to produce an erection such as seeing one's partner naked, kissing, dancing together, and so on, are less likely to cause an erection.
Even watching porn may not produce an erection. It's at this point that a " good" transition into an older age group and older expression of sexuality is necessary, otherwise the man may be so concerned about losing the overt signs of his masculinity that he begins to try to recapture his youth and the power associated with it by acting out unfulfilled adolescent fantasies. (We've all seen them: by motorbike, running off with the secretary, leaving the family for a younger woman ... all mistaken actions that can lead to tragedy of one form or another.)
And it's a tragedy if men of this age decide that they are " past it" as far as sex is concerned, because there's plenty of help available.
First of all, an understanding partner is essential.
She can provide the stimulation and support that is necessary to achieve erection, and together a couple can work on achieving successful intercourse even if the man's penis is not fully erect.
Problems can arise when a man moves from a familiar situation such as an existing relationship into a new one, where his weak erections (and most likely weaker ejaculations) prove too challenging for him to sustain his sexual capacity.
In, for example, a new relationship he may relate back to his experiences of young adulthood where every new relationship produced a huge surge of testosterone and a rampant erection whenever one was called for. Yet such expectations are so unrealistic in the later part of life ...
....the important thing to remember is that the penis and indeed the body itself never lose their capacity for pleasure no matter how old they are.
Orgasm is always possible with enough stimulation to the penis - even if there's no erection whatsoever.
Sensual pleasure is always available to the body if it is stimulated correctly, with or without an erection, and if a man has opened himself up to the physical pleasure of tactile stimulation earlier in life he can enjoy whole body orgasms (although it's never too early or late in life to learn about Tantra).
Considering that half the population is male it's a shame that the penis has become such an object of misguided attention, in that the rampant adolescent penis seems to be the one that garners most praise and admiration explicitly stated or not, it's the one against which so many men tend to measure their sexual prowess and masculinity.
When you think about it, this is crazy. We don't measure ourselves against sporting prowess of 15-year-old athletes - or indeed 20-year-old athletes, so why should we measure our sexual capacity at the age of sixty against the standards of a 20-year-old man?
The truth is that growing older can be a gracious and sexually rewarding experience -- provided a man makes the transition necessary to embrace and understand a more mature, healthy form of masculinity.
Other pages on the penis and sex